The Fifth Sense: Umami or ‘Yummy’

Yummy Yummy

The “umami” of food; the Japanese for ‘deliciousness’, could be manipulated in foods to regulate appetite, according to research by the University of Sussex.

Umami or the detection of ‘yumminess’ in food provides information about the protein content – the yummier the food, the higher the protein content.

This detection of deliciousness in  food is the fifth sense of taste, according to researchers, preceded by the sense of sweetness (1st), saltiness (2nd), sourness (3rd) and lastly, bitterness.

What is yummy umami?

Umami is really the detection in food of the chemical glutamate – a protein found in meat. This yummy quality is found within the tastiness of bacon, for example.


It is the detection of umami that helps us to feel full. Deliciousness is not only fun for the tongue, it is an indicator of high-protein content in food.

 “We know from past research, including previous work at Sussex, that foods with a high protein content tend to satisfy your appetite better than do carbohydrate and fat-rich foods.  So if protein is satisfying, and umami signals the presence of protein, in this study we asked whether the presence of umami taste itself reduced subsequent appetite.” Professor Yeomans

The results, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, were a result of analysis into two common food additives on levels of hunger; monosodium glutamate (MSG) and inosine monophosphate (IMP).

Both additives are commonly found in food and known to create ‘unami’, or ‘delicousness’.

These additives were added to two meals;

  • a low-energy version of a spicy carrot soup
  • the same soup with energy secretly added in a mixture of protein and carbohydrate

The two soups were then tested on study participants to see the effect in terms of:

  • how hungry people felt
  • how much they consumed during a later meal.


The experiment showed that the soup that was enhanced with umami-taste was found to reduce the intake of participants when compared to the same soup without added umami.

Interestingly, despite the participants of the umami soup eating less, they did not feel hungrier. Less of the protein-rich and umami flavoured soup was required to satiate hunger.


Umami effects were stronger in higher-energy soup. This suggested that umami taste can reduce appetite and may help people with weight concerns regulate their weight.

 “How umami achieves this effect is less clear, and we will be looking for future funding to help us answer that question.” Professor Yeomans



Everything you need to know about Glutamate

Sussex scientists identify the flavour that helps us eat less

Image: creative commons licensed (BY-NC-SA) flickr photo by EJP Photo:


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